`But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!'
The Spirit was immovable as ever.
Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, Ebenezer Scrooge.
`Am I that man who lay upon the bed?' he cried, upon his knees.
The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.
`No, Spirit. Oh no, no!'
The finger still was there.
`Spirit!' he cried, tight clutching at its robe, `hear me. I am not the man I was! I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse! Why show me this, if I am past all hope?'
For the first time the hand appeared to shake.
`Good Spirit!' he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: `Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!'
The kind hand trembled.
`I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!'
In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.
Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate aye reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom's hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.
Stave 5: The End of It
Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!
`I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.' Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. `The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh, Jacob Marley, Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this. I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees.'
He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions, that his broken voice would scarcely answer to his call. He had been sobbing violently in his conflict with the Spirit, and his face was wet with tears.
`They are not torn down!' cried Scrooge, folding one of his bed-curtains in his arms, `they are not torn down, rings and all. They are here--I am here--the shadows of the things that would have been, may be dispelled. They will be! I know they will.'
His hands were busy with his garments all this time; turning them inside out, putting them on upside down, tearing them, mislaying them, making them parties to every kind of extravagance.
`I don't know what to do!' cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoon of himself with his stockings. `I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy! I am as giddy as a drunken man! A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!'
He had frisked into the sitting-room, and was now standing there: perfectly winded.
`There's the saucepan that the gruel was in,' cried Scrooge, starting off again, and going round the fireplace. `There's the door, by which the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered. There's the corner where the Ghost of Christmas Present, sat. There's the window where I saw the wandering Spirits. It's all right, it's all true, it all happened! Ha ha ha!'
Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs.
`I don't know what day of the month it is,' said Scrooge. `I don't know how long I've been among the Spirits. I don't know anything. I'm quite a baby! Never mind. I don't care. I'd rather be a baby! Hallo! Whoop! Hallo here!'
He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong, bell! Bell, dong, ding; hammer, clang, clash.